This has been a video project for a long time, but since I haven’t touched it in a while, I thought it could live on this site and not let it go to waste. This will serve well as a first official posting for people to read. So without further ado,
5 problems with Attack on Titan
That’s right, I’m taking a crack at discovering the cracks that envelop Attack on Titan. This action-packed, beautifully animated show was an instant success to many viewers, spawning countless spinoffs and a love for potatoes. It may be stupid for me to even try to find problems with it, as it obviously doesn’t have problems, right? Well…it does. Instead of going on a structure-less rant, I decided to break down the issues with this anime, and manga by extension, into 5 main problems that I had when watching. So with that said, let’s begin!
- The Characters aren’t that good
Now I’ve had issues before with critiquing characters a bit too much in the past, as some works obviously don’t keep characters at the forefront, but Attack on Titan dwells a lot on its character development. The problem is that only a couple of them are any good, and Eren and Mikasa aren’t a part of that group. What I define as a good character is a person with a realistic personality for their situation, one specific flaw, but a willingness to change to better themselves. Characters that are generally stubborn aren’t very good unless they have a counterpart character to call them out on it. The best and greatest example of a flawed but great character is Fullmetal Alchemist. Edward is the brash and stubborn one, not budging in many situations. If Edward was the solo main character, then Fullmetal Alchemist would not be the masterpiece that it is. But thankfully, his meek and intelligent brother Alphonse keeps him in check, which not only creates some genuine comedy, but a good deal of drama. Neither of the characters grow on their own, but grow together as a team, which makes it more interesting when they’re forced apart and have to figure things out on their own for a bit.
Unfortunately, the Attack on Titan roster lacks any decent chemistry, outside of Ymir and Christa, which isn’t expanded upon until later in the manga. At first glance, Eren and Mikasa share a protective bond, but there’s only been one instance of Mikasa making Eren shut up and deal with it, and that’s when they first escape Wall Maria when they were kids. At first look, Mikasa looks like the sullen and staunch type, but she’s actually a lot more weak-willed when Eren is involved.
Other characters tend to fade into the background as well, except for a couple characters that are a very odd assortment that I enjoy. Those characters are Armin, Jean, and Sasha. Sasha’s appeal as a good character is actually simpler than the others, which is she is one of the only avenues of humor in the series. The same could be said for Hange, but she is quite similar to a lot of nerdy-types of characters, so she’s a bit flat in that department. What makes Sasha such an interesting character is her off-putting laid-back attitude. The best part is that it has nothing to do with some sort of secret dark past, which every other character seems to magically have, she’s just Sasha because she’s Sasha. And it’s not just the potato incident, she is often unintentionally a humorous target for misfortune and jokes. She’s definitely not someone who would normally exist in this kind of world. In my book that would usually be a problem, but since her character is played simply for laughs, it works in the story’s favor by contrast.
Armin and Jean’s characters are very similar in how their character types progress. A character with a deep flaw or fear, but working to overcome it. Jean at first is the stereotypical snob who thinks he can wipe the floor with anyone because of his amazing skill. You know, kinda like Eren. But after Eren kicks his ego to the proverbial curb, Jean undergoes a character metamorphosis. His tongue becomes a little less sharp, and he begins to have a knack for planning. Armin works the same way, but he’s originally stricken terribly by fear to act. Both are afflicted by a way of thinking that undermines their hidden intelligence for strategy. Jean, as the series goes on, becomes more and more reliable and the Survey Corps themselves even rely on Armin for his noggin to get them out of a tough spot. They grow into respectable characters even faster than Eren does. These 3 characters have good attributes to them that help carry the anime, and Ymir and Christa later on in the manga start to show a bit of depth. The same can’t really be said for anyone else.
- The presentation is a little flat
Now I’m gonna sound like a humongous asshole for saying this, but there’s a certain aspect of the visuals that I really don’t like. Animation-wise, Attack on Titan is in a class of its own, with high-frequency action and beautiful line-work to emphasize all the ass that’s being kicked. So if I just said that, what aspect didn’t I like about the visuals? It’s actually the specific palette, as in the color choices. Told you I was gonna sound like an asshole, but hear me out. A lot of Attack on Titan is based around colors in a similar color family. Now there are some anime that choose to circulate around a specific color family, such as ERASED utilizing cooler colors a good chunk, but even that show along with others use a whole spectrum of colors to flesh out the world. Attack on Titan not only uses a strict color family, but one of the ugliest, in my opinion, color families you could have for an action-packed experience, and that is to say a ton of browns and pale oranges. The only blues and greens you ever get to see are stained with an orangey film as soon as shit starts going down, which is about 90% of the show. This isn’t much of a problem in the first 12 episodes, as there are quite a lot of scene shifts and environment changes to reflect the horror of the event. The problem comes in when the Survey Corps goes out beyond the wall for the first time in a while, which takes up a good chunk of the latter half of the show, and that entails a whole lot of stained greenery and twilight skies.
The lighting in this anime is also very bizarre. It’s not too noticeable in day sequences, when the sky is out and blue as fuck. But when the sun starts to set, almost everything has a saturated lighting to them. The sky is almost always blindingly bright. I know that I’ve been one to go crazy with bloom effects, but there is a limit. A lot of serious scenes later in the show look a little nauseating because of how blazing the lighting effects are. There’s no denying that Attack on Titan is beautifully animated, but there are problems with making something look too pretty.
- Attack on Titan is poor at pacing its mysteries
Almost every anime and manga has an aspect of mystery to them, no matter the genre. The important thing is how these mysteries are played out and if they’re the focus or not. What I mean is that if an anime’s mystery is the selling point, it’s important for it to have most of the focus on that. This is why a lot of people started to dislike ERASED, because as a mystery, it really isn’t that good, although I would argue that it’s more about the characters and general tension that leads to that anime’s appeal. But there are also anime like My Hero Academia, where there are mysteries to All Might’s past and powers, but it’s not the point of the show. The point is how Izuku becomes stronger as time goes on.
The problem with Attack on Titan is that it begins as a simple premise. Big human-looking things are eating people, humanity builds a big f***ing wall, two super titans bust down wall, Kid’s mother gets nomed, grows up to become soldier, fights big eating humanoids with little success. The biggest surprise and one of the first mysteries displayed is Eren’s Titan transformation. It first poses a question in the viewer’s head, and the viewer starts to question everything. In terms of the actual anime coverage of the story, the mystery pacing isn’t bad. But if they are to make a second season of this anime, I can guarantee you that it won’t exactly be as grand as the first season. The reason being is that there are constant character revelations, secrets exposed, questions answered with more questions, so on and so forth. This wouldn’t be bad if the manga kept up the mystery-making pace with enough answers and action to supplement. But later on, the manga halts all progress to spend several chapters doing nothing but reintroducing characters and mystery solving. Along with a completely unnecessary arc about the true royalty of the city. This is where the manga starts to get incredibly off-track by introducing way too many players and way too many mysteries for it to be enjoyable. It even gets to the point where there is zero relevance to titans for a good chunk of the story.
Again, if the manga kept up either halves of these types of mystery pacing, it would be alright. But starting off simple only to get absurdly complicated and convoluted is exactly what killed Naruto and Dragonball for a lot of people, and even put One Piece in peril with the Dressrosa arc. A story can have less depth in multiple places so long as it’s on something that isn’t the primary focus. Re:Zero is a prime example of it, where it completely bails on the history of the world that Subaru warps to and puts all focus on him and his struggles. Even the 7th episode is one of the best at revealing a mystery with a chilling answer while laying down another one. There doesn’t have to be a whole lot of depth to the story to make it enjoyable, just have depth where it matters.
- The Attack on Titan world isn’t very interesting
This is actually something that doesn’t have too much impact on the anime if you don’t notice it. But once you do, you can’t un-notice it. The city that humanity lives in is kinda boring. Now I’m a sucker for architecture, especially European and Chinese, so at first glance the architecture is fine. The problem is that’s all there really is to it. There seems to be little variation when it comes to the different cities within the walls, as buildings and city structure are a bit random. As such, the whole thing has an unnatural cookie-cutter feel to it. Whether that was intentional for philosophical parallels, as the story constantly pushes the monotony of safe living, it makes the city still uninteresting as a result. It’s kinda like being lost in a suburb neighborhood where everything looks the same and you might just get lost and die of starvation. Speaking of which, the whole world dynamic is more fitted to a philosophical purpose than a natural one. What I mean is that it feels like the world is just there to emphasize a philosophical point, which is to say that confinement and safety don’t compare to freedom. Ignoring whether I agree with that or not, since I’m a TeamIronMan kinda guy, the world doesn’t feel vibrant enough to have any other purpose than personifying that idea.
It also makes it weirder because the story does have a steam-punk sort of aspect to it, but horribly underutilizes it. The only sort of interest that the city produces is the mobility gear used by the soldiers, which is down-right impossible for the era of construction that the city looks to be. Had this sort of technology been applied to other aspects of their daily lives, then it would certainly create some interesting city design and structure. But it seems the only thing they applied it to were making people act like Spiderman with two enormous box cutters. Even with the true royalty plot I mentioned earlier, it only paints the city as even more generic and convoluted than before. There may be some interesting aspects of the story, but the city and its dynamic is definitely not one of them.
- Eren is an awful protagonist
Here’s where I really start stirring up the hornet’s nest. Eren really isn’t a very strong protagonist. It’s obvious what his goal is and why it’s his goal, but there aren’t a lot of events that have Eren figure out what’s wrong and better himself because of it. He does nothing for a long time but flaunt how he saw the true horrors of the titans. This of course doesn’t stop him from flying straight into danger after his initiation and getting almost killed after killing a grand total of 0 titans. Had this character had a comedic aspect to him, then he would at least have something. But 90% of Eren’s dialogue and composition consist of scowling. Almost every dialogue sequence he’s in devolves into:
“You people don’t know shit, I survived Shiganshina. I’m good at killing titans. So awesome at everything. Like killing titans. Never killed a titan before, but I know. I’m good at killing titans.”
“I don’t think you’re very good at killing titans.”
“BACK THE F*** UP, BRO!”
Imagine if Naruto had no comedic aspect to him, that show would’ve died a lot quicker than it did for most people. If Mikasa was a decent enough support, such as Alphonse was for Edward, then it would create better characters. But more often than not Mikasa’s attempts of swaying Eren are half-baked, and end up having her just going along with what he says anyway.
Even afterwards when his Titan power is revealed, he shrinks even further into a mere tool for other people. While this would provide decent drama if played with right, in Attack on Titan, Eren seems to not really care. Because he only wants to kill titans and that’s his only depth as a character.
So those are my main 5 problems with Attack on Titan. But let’s be real here, Attack on Titan really is an entertaining anime. The action packed scenes and usage of motion really sell the idea. There aren’t a lot of anime that can come close to its level of animation and sense of scale. Plus the few instances the horror aspect hits, it hits well. The story might be a bigger mess of threads than a Tangela, but it’s still something pretty good. So guys, thanks for reading, and let the flaming arrows hit my body!